The region received a total of $3.8bn out of the $9.8bn that the institution spent on tertiary education in the past six years, according to Roberta Malee Basset, World Bank’s global lead for Tertiary Education.

Part of the money she noted, went to financing the African Centres of Excellence projects, which are hosted by different universities in Western, Eastern and Southern Africa regions. The centres are meant to help Africa nurture research excellence and innovation, and educate her most talented to the highest levels possible to help in finding solutions to her development challenges.

The official told the 11th virtual annual conference of the African Network for Internationalization of Education that the region is followed in a distant second by the South Asia region, which has benefited from $2.3 bn support from the bank. The Latin America and Caribbean region is third, with $1.6bn support for its tertiary education. The amounts for the latter two region represented 24% and 16% respectively, she added.

“The total World Bank portfolio for tertiary education during this period is just around $9.8bn since 2015, the Africa region accounts for 40% of that total portfolio and these figures expected to keep growing in the future,” she disclosed.

The gross tertiary education enrolment in Africa however remained lowest in the world at 9.4% as at 2018, compared to that of Europe and Central Asia which stood at nearly 70%. This, she noted, could be attributable to low spending on higher education by governments, which averaged at 21% of their total budgets.

While the Covid-19 pandemic had hit and continues to disrupt education sector across the world, Africa could be disadvantaged in deploying virtual learning as one way of ensuring learning continued uninterrupted, mainly due its low internet penetration.

“Universities switched to remote learning, but low levels of connectivity were an obstacle”

“Universities switched to remote learning, but low levels of connectivity were an obstacle. Remote learning was and remains challenging because only 0.44% had access to a fixed broadband and 25% to the internet,” she noted.

It is not all gloom however, she suggested, as studies had showed that 97% of students in Africa owned smart phones and 74% of them owned radio sets.

“The crisis exposed the importance of investing in digital skills to build resilience and create job opportunities for the 21st century,” she added.

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